The mini-essay experiment continues… This one turned out a bit gloomy.
V. You laugh at every joke, drag your blanket blindly, fill your heart with smoke…and the first thing that you want will be the last thing you’ll ever need. That’s how you fight it – Wilco, ‘How to Fight Loneliness’
Rock music constitutes an essential part of my personality, and because of that, I am usually able to attribute a song to a certain decade, judging by its tune, arrangement, and even lyrics. I did not know Wilco’s “How to Fight Loneliness” but even before I checked the date of its release I felt the 1990s vibes coming out of this minimalism, acoustic guitars and the strict and precise vocals of a lead singer. It made me think of how time leaves its trace on everything – people, literature, buildings, and – music.
The mood and message of this song remind me most of all of Paul McCartney’s “Too Much Rain” that has similarly piercing lyrics (“Laugh when your eyes are burning, smile when your heart is filled with pain”), both of them being very relatable to my own emotional experience. Written in the form of guidelines or even instructions (“laugh at every joke, drag your blanket blindly <…> that’s how you fight it”), this poem hides pain under the guise of “coping techniques.” In fact, no redemption is offered, you are slowly poisoned from the inside by suffering, your smile turns into a maniacal grin, and your heart, engulfed in smoke, makes you feel like an automaton.
VI. Just a perfect day
You made me forget myself
I thought I was
Someone else, someone good- Lou Reed, ‘Perfect Day’
Whatever Lou Reed had in mind – an experience of a drug addict or, according to his own words, “this guy has a vision of a perfect day <…> – meant just what I said” – I know that this song is about an illusion, a dream that numbs the pain, blocks the routine out. A fog that surrounds you for a while, giving a fleeting feeling of comfort and happiness. However, the wind blows, the apparition dissolves, and the veil falls off. What are you left with? The faint echo of what it was to be like “someone else, someone good.”
I was always entranced with the rhythm of a waltz, with the tune that flows like ocean tides, with the chorus that makes you gasp in awe because of the power of the melody and the tragic tone of Reed’s voice. Like many others, for a long time, I associated this song with the chilling scene of an overdose in “Trainspotting,” when the protagonist, in his near-death experience, is swallowed by the floor he is lying on. But I am not haunted by this image anymore – rather, I see the alleys of the Central Park in NYC, trees swaying gently to the wind gusts… and someone who dreams of seeing this in the real life. I know that sometimes, though not always, that person is me.
VII. When I’m gone
No need to wonder if I ever think of you
The same moon shines
The same wind blows
For both of us, and time is but a paper moon…
Be not gone – Queen, ‘Teo Torriatte’
Depending on how I feel, my emotional reaction on “Teo Torriatte” ranges from deep sadness to utter happiness. That’s how it is written, arranged, and sung, with the sense of love and harmony on the one hand, and the grief about an inevitable separation and mortality on the other. Nothing will change when we are gone, and yet the beauty of the world will prevail. This is a night song: I can see a figure sitting on a edge of a hill, gazing at the dark sky, sadly musing on all things that will eventually pass.
Early morning hours, everyone is still asleep, and I am clinging to my headphones to catch the QAL show broadcasted by fellow fans from another side of the world, listening to this special song performed for the audience that was the first and foremost inspiration of “Teo Torriatte.” I am thinking of the long-lasting love between Queen and Japan, starting from the 1970s, with this wonderful country recognizing the band before the rest of the world, up to this day, when the children and grandchildren of these fans are still rejoicing and singing along the words of everlasting love.
To be continued…
Katya Neklyudova, 2020